This Is the Best Way to Clean Your Favorite Cashmere Sweaters at Home, According to Laundry Experts

published Nov 14, 2022
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Closeup photo of a brown cashmere sweater. Tag is showing, reading "100% cashmere"
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

There’s nothing like the feel of wearing a soft cashmere sweater. If not knowing how to properly launder your favorite one is stopping you from wearing it again, though, take heart: It’s not as hard as you might think, and yes, you can even do it at home.

Of course, you might feel a little rebellious to take on cashmere laundering at home, especially when you have a “dry clean only” tag staring you down.

“With delicate materials like cashmere, closely following the care label is key to not only getting the garment clean but making sure it lasts as long as it should,” says Caroline Dutka, brand manager at CD One Price Cleaners. “Sometimes following the care label can be labor-intensive. That is why we do recommend dry cleaning for delicate garments.” 

Dutka explains that aside from the convenience, dry cleaners use gentle yet effective fabric stain releasers that aren’t available for home use.

However, if the thought of a dry cleaning bill is preventing you from wearing your favorite cashmere garments, you can certainly wash them at home. But it’s not as easy as tossing that sweater into the washing machine — and don’t even think about putting it anywhere near the dryer.

“Materials like cashmere can be unpredictable when washed outside of care label instructions,” says Dutka. “There could be shrinking, bleeding, warping, or other issues when using a washer and dryer, even on delicate cycles.”

If you shudder to think of experimenting on your beloved cashmere sweater, hand-washing is the way to go. Here, Dutka walks you through it:

Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

How to hand wash a cashmere sweater

  1. Fill a sink with cold water. (Other laundry experts say it’s OK to use lukewarm water — just don’t use hot.)
  2. Mix in a detergent that’s made for cashmere or wool, or some other type of gentle soap; Dutka recommends baby shampoo.
  3. Submerge the sweater or other garment and let it soak for five to 15 minutes.
  4. Take the garment out of the water and fold it into a ball. Gently squeeze the ball to release the water. Don’t crumple it into a ball, and don’t wring or twist the garment — it’ll damage the fibers, Dutka says.
  5. Lay the sweater out on a clean towel. Then, gently roll the towel to remove any water that remains.
  6. Lay the sweater flat on a drying rack to dry. If you don’t have a dryer rack, Dutka recommends laying the sweater flat between two towels. “Laying flat to dry means that if hung, the shoulders in particular could get distorted and not fit appropriately afterwards,” says Dutka. “If you don’t dry correctly, in addition to distortion and bad fit, garments may develop holes where they were hung, the fabric may weaken, and the garment could get warped.”

Another option for cleaning cashmere at home

If hand-washing seems too laborious of a task, there’s another option for cleaning cashmere at home: steaming.

“Steaming is also a gentle way to quickly freshen up your cashmere clothes without having to wash them,” says Frej Lewenhaupt, co-founder and CEO at Steamery. “The hot steam kills the bacteria, removes shallow dirt, and helps the sweater to regain its natural form. Finish off with a spritz of fabric spray, and your sweater will be fresh and ready to be used again.” 

An iron isn’t a good swap for a steamer, though, because it’s not as gentle, Lewenhaupt explains. “Steam can be used on most textiles including cashmere, and it will give your garments that ‘new’ appearance,” he says.

Don’t have a steamer? Lewenhaupt says that if you’ve worn your cashmere sweater a couple of times and just want to freshen it up, you can hang it outside overnight to banish any odors. 

If you’ve got a heavily stained cashmere sweater, Lewenhaupt says to take it to the dry cleaner; he agrees with Dutka that the stain removers there are more efficient. But for freshening up and ordinary laundering, you can maintain your cashmere garments easily on your own.